Belmont Stakes Field 2019: Horses and Jockeys Worth Backing in 151st Race

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 7, 2019

Exercise rider Jose Mejia rides Bourbon War during a workout at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., Thursday, June 6, 2019. The 151st Belmont Stakes horse race will be run on Saturday, June 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Seth Wenig/Associated Press

A majority of the jockeys riding in the 2019 Belmont Stakes have wins in at least one leg of the Triple Crown. 

Headlined by 2018 Triple Crown winner Mike Smith, the roster of 10 jockeys is littered with some of the world's best riders aboard the most talented horses in the world. 

Unlike a year ago, Smith will not mount the pre-race favorite, as he will ride Bourbon War for trainer Mark Hennig. 

Favorites Tacitus and War of Will carry the advantage in terms of recent form, but an experienced jockey could lead an unexpected contender to the front of the field Saturday at Belmont Park.


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The last three jockeys to win the Belmont Stakes are in the field for Saturday's race.

In addition to Smith, 2017 champion Jose Ortiz will ride Tacitus and 2016 winner Irad Ortiz Jr. is aboard Tax. 

John Velasquez, who won the Belmont Stakes in 2007 and 2012, will take charge of Intrepid Heart, while 2014 winning jockey Joel Rosario will ride Sir Winston. 

Two-time Preakness Stakes-winning jockey Javier Castellano lines up to the left of Velasquez and Rosario in post No. 6 with Spinoff. 

The other jockey with a victory in a Triple Crown race is Tyler Gaffalione, who led War of Will to the winner's circle three weeks ago at the Preakness. 

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

As if that was not enough, Luis Saez, who will ride Everfast, was in line to win the Kentucky Derby in May before Maximum Security was disqualified. 

The other two jockeys in the field, Julien Leparoux and Jose Lezcano have decorated resumes without Triple Crown wins. 

If you are looking for a betting advantage by taking the jockey riding a certain horse, you could make the case for all of the 10 riders to make a difference. 

One X-factor for War of Will could be his familiarity with Gaffalione, who rode him in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. 

In fact, War of Will will go down as the only horse to compete in each of the three Triple Crown events in 2019.

Tacitus and a few other colts will be more rested than War of Will, but the majority of them will be working with new jockeys who had different rides for the first two major races.

War of Will and Tacitus will be the horses who gain the most attention in the buildup to the Belmont because of their recent results and short odds. 

Master Fencer could prove to be a worthy third favorite in the field, as he took sixth at the Kentucky Derby thanks to a late surge through the pack. 

After those three horses, it feels like a bit of a crap shoot to decide which horses will place where. 

That is where jockey experience at Belmont Park could come into play, especially in the middle post positions with Tax, Bourbon War and Spinoff. 

If one of those horses is able to get off to a fast start through traffic, he could dictate the pace and force the favorites to do more work to get in front. 

Smith teaming up with Bourbon War could become the most intriguing combination, as the horse came up with a second-place finish at the Fountain of Youth Stakes and fourth-place mark at the Florida Derby in fields with plenty of high-quality three-year-old horses. 

With Smith and his Belmont-winning experience aboard, Bourbon War could be the latest long shot to surprise us in a Triple Crown race. 

But you could make a similar argument for a few horses, especially with the wealth of top jockeys scattered across the 10-horse field. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from Horse Racing Nation.